Thursday 31 August 2006

Second preference

Phillip Adams, in an unusually mild article suggests what we have been saying all along at CASE--that there is no political party that really represents the Christian view of the world. And that we should expect a great deal of diversity from Christians as they work out how to be in the world, not of the world. I do like his suggestion that Christians are looking for someone to give their second preference--a fine summary of the Christian approach to politics.

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Wednesday 30 August 2006

Vanity Fair enough

In the CASE Great Books courses, we've been studying Thackeray's novel, Vanity Fair. In the recent film version starring Reese Witherspoon, the ending is changed so that Becky Sharp (the opportunistic heroine of the story) has a 'happily ever after' ending in India rather than the book's pointed final comments about her pointless social climbing. It struck some of the group that this was a sign of the times--the filmmaker could not cope with the hopelessness of the book, where the true vanity of the characters is left to hang over the reader like a warning sign. I wonder whether this is something we need in apologetics today--the capacity to let hopelessness and vanity echo forth around people's empty lives, so that they might seek out something more substantial than wealth and social status.

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Monday 21 August 2006

Vilification--is to win to lose?

The Dannys vilification case in Victoria is a test case for religous pluralism in Australia. What kind of criticism of other religions is acceptable? Are all religions treated equally on this issues? Should they be?

As a strong advocate of free speech, but an equally strong believer that it is a relative not an absolute right, I want to see a society where religions can be vigorously attacked, defended, promoted and even rejected. However, my biggest fear in the Dannys case is that it will achieve the opposite of what Christians wish. My fear is that if the Dannys win their appeal, it will send the bizarre message that Christians think it is OK to vilify muslims. Of course, that would be a misreading of what has happened, but it is the kind of vibe that could so easily come across.

That would be a tragedy, because the Christian message is meant to come with respect and gentlenessand honorable conduct. It's not up to me to suggest who has conducted in what way, but I've read Judge Higgin's decision and some of the transcripts of the offending seminar, and I found myself pondering the challenge of speaking the truth in love.

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Sunday 20 August 2006

The fist of Buddha

My eight year-old son wanted me to list him as a Buddhist on the national census form. Since he knows nothing about Buddhism other than the lotus position, I refused. Try me again when you can explain the Four Noble Truths, I said. However, his real reason for wanting to identify with Buddhists is friendship. His best friend at school is a Buddhist (well, at least, he comes from a Buddhist family and presumably his Dad listed him as Buddhist on the census).
My son's real problem is that anyone would challenge their friendship because of their religious affiliation. Employing a 'points of contact' style of apologetics (having just read this book), I suggested to him that there are some things that Buddhists have in common with Christians, but we believe very different things about Jesus. My son's passionate response was, "If anyone said anything bad about Buddhists, Buddha would punch his face in". When I pointed out to him that wasn't a particularly Buddhist thing to do, he shrugged his shoulders. "I'll do it then", was his solution.
I wonder whether, as time goes on, their friendship will survive their different belief systems. Or will one of them shift faiths? Or will something else happen between them. My prayer is that they will both be confronted by the uniqueness of Jesus—the one way to God and the true revelation of God—and remain friends, whatever happens. But is that too much to hope for?

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Wednesday 9 August 2006

Aust Christian Future?

I attended an intriguing conference in Canberra on Monday exploring Australia's Christian Heritage. One speaker mentioned the need to distinguish between 'heritage' (our celebration of the past and the aspects of it that we hope will endure) and 'history' (the whole shebang, warts and all). I felt happiest with the many and various speakers when they admitted this need both to celebrate the ways in which Christianity has contributed to Australian life, and mourn the ways in which the name of Christ has been abused and brought sorrow and suffering. The conference struggled most when it came to outlining what the future of Christianity in Australia could/might/should look like. Here's where we need robust discussion about what Christian witness and living look like in a 21st century pluralistic secular state such as ours (and we shouldn't expect agreement!)

But planning how to move forward from where you are—rather than longing for an idealised past or throwing your hands up in despair—is always the hardest part, and Proverbs 16:9 kept springing to mind. Besides, it was a conference was organised by historians!

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Tuesday 1 August 2006

Site for sore I's

I hope you are enjoying the new site, and look forward to your feedback. Now that it is running reasonably smoothly, we are filling in gaps that have existed for months, as well as adding exciting new material. There are still some teething issues: when you search the site for 'God' you come up with just one entry, 'Jesus' gives you three, but 'Greg Clarke' gives you eight entries. Something is awry; I know I should be there more than eight times...

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